Ethnic Shifting Could Mean Ethnic Redistricting

The census often confirms what we already know - and it also affects the redistricting process for Congressional and state legislative districts.

New York City's Asian population increased 32 percent and now makes up about 13 percent of the city's population, while the Hispanic population grew by 8.1 percent and now makes up about 29 percent of the city's population. 

That mirrors a national trend - the Census Bureau data shows that Asians were the group that grew the fastest in the nation and Hispanic populations grew by the largest numbers. This can be chalked up to higher immigration and natural increase (birth). 

The jump in the Latino population in particular could have ramifications for New York.

Currently, there are two Congressional districts in the city that are predominantly Latino. Angelo Falcon, President of the National Institute for Latino Policy, says that because of the jump in the Latino population in Queens and the Bronx, there could potentially be a third. One option would be two redraw the 15th Congressional district - represented by Rep. Charlie Rangel. His district, which includes Harlem, has seen intense change over the past 10 years - the white population jumped astronomically by 81 percent and the Black population dropped by 13.8 percent. It's also now 12.2 percent off of the target population of 717,707 for Congressional districts, so it will certainly be redrawn. Option number one:

"If you took that district and extended it into the Bronx where there are other Latinos there's a possibility, at least numerically, of coming up with a district up there," said Falcon.

Option number two: To redraw New York's seventh district, represented by Rep. Joseph Crowley, to incorporate more of Queens. There's been a big growth of the South Asian population as well as the Latino population in that borough. "You might be able to come up with a district there which is Latino with a large South Asian population," Falcon said.

Why is this important? Because a majority/minority district has a better chance of electing a minority candidate. 

Despite the jump in Latinos and Asians in the city, there is no guarantee that anything will change, of course. The redistricting game is intensely political.

"So those are two possibilities, whether they're practical or not is another story - nobody's going to be messing around with Charlie Rangel, (laughs) so nothing is going to happen there. But those are at least statistically possible," Falcon said.

It's impossible to say now how drastically Rangel's district will be redrawn, concurred Steven Romalewski, director of CUNY Mapping Service at the Center for Urban Research. 

"Even though district population is the fundamental factor, many other considerations will impact the process – Voting Rights Act compliance, whether district lines will cross county lines - which they try to minimize unless the have to cross counties - politics, etc."